Chris Christie to conservatives: "We're right and they're wrong"

ROSEMONT, IL - JUNE 08: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to guests at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on June 8, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. CPAC is being hosted by the American Conservative Union.
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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to guests at the Conservative Political Action Conference on June 8, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

(CBS News) ROSEMONT, Ill. - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won his most thunderous applause at the Conservative Political Action Conference here when he told his audience that "the most powerful thing on our side is this: we're right, and they're wrong."

At the same time, the charismatic and confrontational governor - widely viewed as a potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- praised the Democratic leaders in his state legislature for working with him on some reforms and stressed the importance of building relationships with Democrats and realizing the limits of extreme partisanship.

"I've always said there is a boulevard that exists between compromising your principles and getting everything you want. Now, we should never compromise our principles. And I never have. Those are the things that people vote for you on, that's the core of who you are. But there's always a boulevard between that and getting everything you want," Christie said.

"The job of a leader, the job of a governor, the job of a president, is to get the people in the room and bang enough heads together and rub enough arms and cajole enough to have them put the country and the state's greater interest ahead of their own personal partisan interest. That's what we did in New Jersey and that's the model for America," he said.

Not surprisingly, Christie won far more applause-- and some laughs -- for a boastful and humorous retelling of his success at cutting the budget and reforming his state's pension, and when he slammed President Obama for saying in a press conference Friday that state and local hiring cuts were weakening the economy.

"Now, in New Jersey, we have more government workers per square mile than any state in America. But since I've been governor we now have fewer people on the state payroll at any time since Christie Whitman left office in January 2001. That's the right direction, Mr. President, not the wrong direction," Christie said.

"He's the one who saddled us with all these federal rules and regulations that don't allow governors to have the freedom to do what we really want, and then he has the audacity to stand up this morning and say that it's the nation's governors and the nation's mayors who are driving our economy down by not hiring enough people for government work. If you need to understand with any more clarity the difference between conservative republican principles and this president you don't need to listen to one more word in this campaign than what he said behind that podium at the White House today," Christie added.

That part of his message was more in tune with other party stars, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who urged the crowd of conservatives to stand for their principles. Mourdock, who ousted longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in a GOP primary, said after winning the nomination that "I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view."

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.